Author Archives: Nabil El-Ghoroury

About Nabil El-Ghoroury

Director of APAGS. Licensed psychologist in Ohio. Clinical and research interests include autism spectrum disorders, social networking, doctoral training in psychology, and working with Latino children and families.

Ray Fowler awarding Mitch Prinstein with the Fowler Award at the 2009 APA Convention, Toronto, ON.

APAGS Tribute to Raymond D. Fowler

On March 17, 2015, Raymond D. Fowler, PhD, former CEO and past president of the American Psychological Association, passed away at his home in San Diego, CA. APAGS is indebted to Ray, who was instrumental in the founding of APAGS.

Ray Fowler awarding Karen O'Brien with the Fowler Award at the 1997 APA Convention, Chicago, IL.

Ray Fowler awarding Karen O’Brien with the Fowler Award at the 1997 APA Convention, Chicago, IL. Then Chair Mitch Prinstein is in the background.

In 1988, two students, Scott Mesh and David Pilon, were working with two psychologists, Ellin Bloch (Chair of Division 29’s Student Development Committee) and Pierre Ritchie (President of the Ontario Psychological Association) to encourage APA to develop a home for students within the organization. That year, Ray spoke at the Ontario Psychological Association’s annual meeting, and a snowstorm delayed his return home. During that extra evening, Pierre and David were successful in getting Ray’s support to create a student organization within APA. With the support of the 4 leaders, Ray secured additional interest among APA leadership for the new student group, and at the 1988 APA Convention, APAGS was founded by a unanimous Council vote (Mook, 1996).

Ray Fowler awarding Mitch Prinstein with the Fowler Award at the 2009 APA Convention, Toronto, ON.

Ray Fowler awarding Mitch Prinstein with the Fowler Award at the 2009 APA Convention, Toronto, ON.

When Ray became CEO of APA, he continued to support APAGS. He regularly visited APAGS during its business meetings, served as a mentor to numerous student leaders, and spoke at the Psychology Graduate Student Rally on Capitol Hill in August 2000. APAGS established an award for mentoring named in Ray’s honor in 1989 and presented Ray with the first APAGS Fowler Award. Since then, 26 faculty members have been honored with the highest award APAGS can bestow. Ray would come to APAGS events to personally recognize the winning mentor.

Ray Fowler with Nabil El-Ghoroury, 2010 APA Convention, San Diego, CA

Ray Fowler with Nabil El-Ghoroury (Director of APAGS) at the 2010 APA Convention, San Diego, CA. This is the last APA Convention where Ray awarded the Fowler Award to the winning mentor.


I feel lucky that I knew you, Ray, when I was a graduate student leader in the early APAGS days. On behalf of over 26,000 current graduate student members, I would like to thank you for your constant support of APAGS and graduate students in APA! So many APAGS members benefited from your wisdom and generosity, and our condolences to your family.


The Academic Hunger Games: Are the Odds in Your Favor?

One of my favorite movies of 2013 was Mockingjay 1Catching Fire, the film adaptation of the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy. Reflecting on this movie, I started to think about how graduate school could be seen as an academic version of the Hunger Games. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie or read the book, here’s a quick summary (please note there are spoilers throughout the column):

  • The Hunger Games are set in a dystopian future of the US (named Panem), where a central Capitol District has maintained power over 12 districts (e.g. states) that rebelled against the Capitol 75 years ago.
  • Districts have limited resources and people are kept starving and poor.
  • As a punishment to the districts for rebelling against the Capitol, each year the districts must provide one male and female teenager, known as tributes, to compete in the “Hunger Games”, which is a televised battle in which they fight to the death.
  • The last surviving tribute is the victor, who earns riches, a luxurious new home in their district, and becomes a mentor to future tributes from his/her district.
  • The books are told from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a teenage tribute and eventual co-victor (along with Peeta Mellark) from District 12, the poorest district of Panem. Her key to success was her excellence in archery, a skill she developed so she could hunt to feed her family.

At first glance, this sounds very different from graduate school. However, there may be more than meets the eye. There is growing evidence that there are not enough tenure track positions for all the doctorates being produced.  Among all fields of study (including psychology), fewer graduates are landing tenure track positions. Universities are replacing more tenure track positions with adjunct instructors.

While harsh, the academic universe is not quite as bad as the world in the Hunger Games. The prize many victorious doctoral students want for surviving the rigors of graduate school is a tenure track position. While there are not enough faculty positions for every graduate, the ratio is probably better than 1 in 24, the odds in the Hunger Games.

So what can you do to improve your odds in the academic Hunger Games? Here are my thoughts:

  • Ally with your colleagues. Katniss survived Peeta 1both Hunger Games by building alliances with fellow tributes. How can you build alliances in graduate school? One way might be to develop collaborative projects with fellow students. Funding agencies are putting more preference to collaborative, large scale projects, and developing those relationships early in training can help you. In addition, you might be able to generate more publications by collaborating with colleagues.
  • Learn helpful skills. By being a great archer, Katniss was able to fend for herself in the Hunger Games and ultimately win. How can this apply to graduate study? Think about what skills could help you land your dream academic job. Departments are always looking for someone to teach statistics and research methods; getting experience in this while in graduate school could put the odds in your favor of landing a tenure track position. Other skills might include interdisciplinary knowledge or cutting edge research techniques (such as fMRI). Think about what skills you want to learn that could set yourself apart in a job application, and make a plan to learn those skills!
  • Advocate for more resources. One difference from the Hunger Games is that in the academic games we have the capacity to advocate for change. Increased funding for science research at the federal level and increased funding for public universities at the state level could change the playing field for doctoral education. You can make a change by responding to action alerts from APA and other psychology organizations.
  • Create an alternative path to victory. Finally, you don’t have to play the game the way we are expected to. In the first book, Katniss and Peeta refused to play the game as told, and were able to survive after threatening to kill themselves (which would deprive the games of a victor). Professors train us to become future faculty and some put down alternative career paths. However, if you don’t want to play the academic Hunger Games, your doctoral training gives you options that can take you out of the arena. For some, that is going into health service psychology (getting licensed and practicing). For others, it could mean nontraditional careers. The Odd Jobs column in gradPSYCH features psychologists in unique job settings, such as Cirque du Soleil, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, or Wikimedia Foundation. With a doctorate in psychology, you have a skill set that can take you out of the arena and onto a different path. You don’t have to play the game that is presented in front of you!

Katniss 1Although graduate school may be tough and grueling, your future doesn’t have to be as hopeless as those in the Hunger Games. So build your skill set, cultivate alliances, and as they say in the Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor!”

5 Lessons from Harry Potter to Deal with an Advisor who is Like Voldemort

Mattu, 2012

Mattu, 2011

So what do you do if your advisor is as evil as Voldemort?

Graduate school is full of enough challenges and hoops to deal with a toxic advisor. But just as Harry Potter was able to overcome Voldemort, you can graduate with your degree, if you think about the allies that Harry developed over the course of the series. These allies all taught him something important, and you can too by discovering people who are like them in your life.

1)     Get Hermione on your side – You need a smart peer on your side who can give you feedback on drafts of your proposal, or challenge you with tough questions before your defense. You want someone who can give you truly constructive criticism, without being mean about it.

2)     Find Ron – Everyone needs a best friend, with whom you can commiserate after a tough test or a difficult meeting with your advisor. Social support is so important on the journey to earning your degree! Find someone whom you trust.

El-Ghoroury, 2012

El-Ghoroury, 2012

3)     Seek Dumbledore – As the headmaster of Hogwarts, Dumbledore often went out of his way to protect Harry (even if Harry didn’t know it). It helps to have an ally among the faculty in your department, particularly someone with some power, such as the department chair or the director of training. An ally who is well connected can be a buffer for you in your interactions with your advisor, particularly on committees.

4)     Discover Remus Lupin – While Remus Lupin was Harry’s teacher for one year, the most important thing he taught Harry (the “expect patronus” spell) was something he taught outside of class. Find a mentor who is not at your school who can be a source of support as well as instruction. Perhaps you can find a mentor from your undergraduate institution, or from a conference.

5)     Reach out to Sirius Black – Although his parents were deceased, Harry had a godfather, Sirius, who played an important role of loving Harry. Reach out to your parents or family for support in grad school, even if all they do is empathize with you and tell you it will get better.

If you can find these types of allies, you will be well on your way to handling a tough advisor.

There is just one last question to consider: Is your advisor Voldemort, or is he really Snape?

El-Ghoroury, 2012

El-Ghoroury, 2012

In the books, Harry is convinced that Snape is a bad guy and out to get him, but he learns in the final book that Snape had been protecting him the whole time he was at Hogwarts. Is your advisor really trying to harm you, or are the challenges he’s giving you merely lessons to make you a stronger psychologist?

If these allies don’t help, you may need to learn some spells. Expelliarmus!


Paying It Forward

In my January 2014 gradPSYCH column, I described the idea of paying it forward and helping out the generation of graduate students following us, as well as publicly thanking those who helped us while we were in school. I am happy to start this feature off, and here are the many people I’d like to thank for their assistance, support and encouragement while I was in grad school.

  • First year blues – Moving across country to a rural town was tough for a California raised city boy like myself. Tracy Rachmiel was an advanced student when I started grad school and gave me numerous tips on surviving the academic hurdles and how to survive the long winters in Binghamton.
  • Struggling in supervision
    Tamra Holtzer & Nabil El-Ghoroury (El-Ghoroury, 2000)
    Tamra Holtzer & Nabil El-Ghoroury (El-Ghoroury, 2000)

    I shared a very challenging clinical supervisor withTamra Holtzer; we’d prepare for supervision together & discuss long cases on walks around campus.

  • Changing advisors – After struggling for several years with a very challenging mentor (think Voldemort from Harry Potter), talking with Susan Latham encouraged me to take the scary step of switching labs and mentors. She was already in the lab I planned to move to, and without her encouragement I might never have switched.
  • Applying for internship – While the internship situation when I applied had not quite hit the crisis stage, the application process was complicated and stressful. My internship prep group, Tanya Williamson and Roxanne Manning, made this process less painful and more enjoyable (and even better when Tanya and I matched to the same internship).

    Nabil El-Ghoroury, Tanya Williamson & Roxanne Manning, celebrating their graduation with their PhDs!!! (El-Ghoroury, 2002)

    Nabil El-Ghoroury, Tanya Williamson & Roxanne Manning, celebrating their graduation with their PhDs!!! (El-Ghoroury, 2002)

  • Difficult dissertation – Who doesn’t have a problem completing the dissertation? For me, it was compounded by the death of my mother while I was on internship and dissertating. Coaching and support from Elisa Krackow helped me wrap up and graduate!

If it takes a village to raise a child, perhaps it takes a department and a cohort of friends to help one earn a doctorate! This list is incomplete; I don’t have enough space to thank everyone for their assistance in graduate school. I know without the support of these friends and others, graduate school would have been a much more difficult (and lonely) journey.

Who helped you get through graduate school? Share your thanks to them in the comments. We’ll invite a couple of you to share your stories in your own article on gradPSYCH Blog!